Monday, October 01, 2012

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Submitting the Writing

Submitting the novel is a lot like heading into a hedge
maze and hoping that Jack Nicholson isn't in there with
that axe. Image attribution.
The long process of writing a novel is just about over. I've spent the better part of a year writing, editing, revising, polishing, and generally buffing up to a high shine a work that's just about 110,000 words of story. It's a story I'm in love with, that I think is maybe the best thing I've ever written (certainly the longest) and it's ready to go out into the world. Nearly. This week I'm beginning the process of submitting to publishers.

I have a plan. I've identified three potential houses and I know the routines for getting the book in their sweaty and overburdened little hands. Because I'm going to go the route of the slush pile to start, I'm taking an attitude that 'if it happens it happens, if it doesn't then I'll try something else'. One thing I learned from this summer (when I was sending out short stories) is that when a writer is broadcasting, it's best to keep track of where a story has been and will be going but otherwise to put it out of mind.

Because once it's out there, it's Out There. There's nothing else to do for it until it comes back with a form letter rejection. If the opposite is true and the writer receives an email or phone call accepting the work, that's when I'll do the majority of worrying.

To put it a little more plainly - have you ever been forced to choose between friends? Caught in the middle of a couple divorcing or breaking up when you're genuinely friends with both of them? Or think that you are? What happens to the one that you don't choose? You forget about them. Maybe not completely but definitely out of sight, out of mind. You choose to see the person you liked more, whether it was slightly or not, generally out of a sense of obligation or a sense of selfishness. Perhaps one person can do more for you than the other. Or perhaps you desired that one more and think you have a shot.

Regardless.

The concept if not the intent is the same in this case. The writer has chosen one story over however many others and has worked it until it's ready to go a-courtin'. This story is the one, as I said above, I fell in love with. It's the one that had to be told. Now I'm ready to show it off to people who I think will like it. The story's already met my inner circle of friends - the first readers - and the consensus was that I should keep on with it.

Look, I'm sorry for the dating metaphors but they're really appropriate. I've heard writers call books their children and I understand that, too, but I think this is more personal to me than that. My child I expect to grow up and move out into the world, be his own person and find his own success. My love, my wife, this book, I expect to live with for the rest of my life.

That's what's going to make it hard to send out and forget while it's finding its way.

Or maybe I'm just saying that when the book goes out I can't worry about what will happen. Whatever happens - well, happens. I can't dwell on it or I won't be able to concentrate on the next book which I'm already falling in love with.

So, out of sight, out of mind. I'll let you know what happens, if anything.

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